Thursday, 30 September 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 14

Are we really at Week 14 already? My God, this season has gone by very fast. There are only six weeks left in the CFL season, which means there are only 24 games remaining for me to potentially incorrectly pick. I say this because I posted a terrible 1-3 record last week. The Edmonton Eskimos beating the Toronto Argonauts is what saved me from an ignominious 0-4 week. Phew, thanks Edmonton.

Montreal (9-3) at Calgary (9-3)

This is likely to be the best game of the weekend. This might even be a Grey Cup preview. Calgary is coming into this game having lost two in a row, while Montreal escaped Winnipeg last week by the skin of their teeth (and with a little help from the refs). When two teams seem even, you take the home team.

Winner: Calgary, 34-31

Saskatchewan (8-4) at Toronto (6-6)

Everything is pointing towards an upset here. Toronto hasn't played well lately and will be without their starting QB (which for T.O. is a positive), and Saskatchewan is due for a letdown. The Riders have this tendency to lose when you think they should win. That said, I can't take the Argos.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 27-17

Winnipeg (3-9) at British Columbia (4-8)

If Winnipeg has any hope of making the playoffs, they MUST win this game. With it being unlikely that the Bombers will catch the Argos and Ti-Cats, they will need to cross over into the West bracket in order to see the post season. BC, while victorious last week, have not looked good since they beat Montreal on the Labour Day weekend.

Winner: Winnipeg, 34-26

Hamilton (6-6) at Edmonton (3-9)

Last week was a heartbreaker for the Tabbies. They had the Riders on the ropes, and let them steal one. Edmonton went further east to win a game than any team ever has for a regular-season contest. The Esks used Touchdown Atlantic to try and turn their season around. The Eskimos have been very consistent in letting themselves down after a big win. I expect that trend to continue this week.

Winner: Hamilton, 31-20

Recap
Calgary, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Hamilton

Season Record: 26-22

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

All Star Voting

Click on the picture to vote
It's that time of year again, time to get out and vote... for the Canadian Football League All Stars.

First up, we have the voting for East and West All Stars. This runs until November 7th. Then it will be league-wide voting, which will take place from November 10th until the 14th.

I'm not a ballot stuffer myself, but if you're reading this, you obviously have more than a passing interest in the CFL, so you might as well have your voice heard on who should be our league's All Stars.

I'll write a second post on November 10th to remind everyone to vote again for the CFL All Stars, but right now, enjoy voting for the East and West Division All Stars.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fix the Zebras

I hate to pile on when things are going badly, but there needs to be some serious overhaul in officiating in the Canadian Football League.

Too many times this season, I have seen games altered by missed or poor calls. Just this past weekend the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who fought tooth and nail with the Montreal Alouettes, were the victims of one of the worst calls I have ever seen. Let me set the scene:

Late in the fourth quarter with Winnipeg up by six, Montreal Alouette WR Jamel Richardson seemed to catch a pass and then proceed to fumble after getting rocked by Ian Logan. It was a hell of a hit that sent the ball to the turf, where it was scooped up by Winnipeg's Brandon Stewart. The Bombers had the ball, and with a few runs, could kill the clock and get a much-needed victory.

But hold the phone, the call on the field was an incomplete pass. So Winnipeg Head Coach Paul LaPolice challenged the call hoping to have it overturned. It was clear to anyone with any objectivity that Richardson caught the ball, took almost two full steps, was hit and lost the ball. For the 20+ years that I've been watching football, that's been a fumble. Except, apparently, in the CFL. "After review, the call on the field [was] upheld."

Pardon my French, but that's bullsh*t! The Bombers were completely jobbed. Everyone knows I have no love for the Bombers, but this call was garbage. And it's not the first time that the Bombers have been the victim of a bad call on a non-fumble this season.

During a game between the Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Tiger-Cat QB Kevin Glenn seemed to have fumbled the ball, but the play was blown dead before anyone could pick up the ball. The Bombers did recover the fumble, but unfortunately for them, it didn't matter. The whistle blew, the play was dead, the Bombers were out of luck. The Cats would score on that drive, and the Bombers lost the game.

A similar scenario unfolded between the Roughriders and Tiger-Cats this past week as well, except this time, after a challenge by the Riders, DeAndra' Cobb's fumble was recognized and the Riders were given the ball. It was almost the exact same thing that happened two months earlier, but the call was, correctly, reversed this time around. Cobb did fumble, so that's not my complaint. The lack of consistency from game to game, however, is my complaint. How can the same thing happen in two separate games, yet be called differently?

Is 2010 just the year of bad officiating? The CFL seems to have a controversial call or missed call every week, there was the horrendous call on Calvin Johnson's TD catch in Week 1 of the NFL season (that's a rule-based problem, however, but I'm still salty over it), the botched call that cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game, and let's not forget the horrible refereeing that marred an otherwise brilliant FIFA World Cup (I'm still angry about the blown call in the Germany-England match).

This CFL season has had its ups and downs, but the officiating seems to be at an all-time low. It's getting to the point where I'm surprised when the refs don't blow a call. I know refereeing isn't easy, and I don't expect them to be perfect, but these egregious calls are piling up and referees are now having an impact on the outcome of games. I pay to watch the players play, and I want them deciding who wins and loses, not some guy wearing zebra stripes.

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 13)

Regardless of any outcome, the biggest news of the week was about Touchdown Atlantic in Moncton. I think it's safe to say that the entire endeavour was a huge success, aside from the actual game, of course, which wasn't very good. Rumours abound that an annual sojourn out east is in the cards for the next few years. Hopefully, one day soon, these trips will be part of competing against a permanent CFL franchise in Atlantic Canada. This week's festivities showed that there is an appetite for football in the Maritimes. That appetite needs to be satiated with a pro team not long after Ottawa finally returns. A ten-team CFL might not be a pipe dream after all.
  1. I would like to congratulate Ben Cahoon on being only the second player in CFL history to record 1,000 catches for a career. In the next week or two Cahoon will surpass Terry Vaughn's record of 1,006 catches. Cahoon is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when his career is over, and ending his career atop the receptions list seems fitting for one of the most reliable Receivers to ever grace a CFL field.
  2. What a debut by Greg Carr. Over 160 yards and two TDs in the first half of his first game. That's insane. He was injured in the second half, so one can only wonder what his final stat line would have looked like had he played 60 minutes.
  3. I'm starting to doubt what a catch is and isn't. I'm confused in the NFL (Calvin Johnson), and I'm confused in the CFL (Jamel Richardson). The Bombers got completely jobbed on the call that took a fumble recovery away from the Bombers and gave the Als a chance to win, which they did. Had the fumble been called correctly, the Bombers likely would have knocked off Montreal for a much-needed win.
  4. Of all the confounding play calls this past weekend, none flummoxed me more than the call by the Bombers that had Terrence Edwards throwing a pass in the fourth quarter while trying to protect the lead. That was an unnecessary risk for the Bombers to take.
  5. I haven't checked, so I don't know, but hopefully Kerry Watkins's injury isn't serious. The Als have a ton of weapons, but Watkins has been so good for so long that losing him will hurt. It won't cripple them, but it's never a good thing to lose an ├╝ber-talented player like Kerry Watkins.
  6. I still don't know why any team would sign him, but would Jesse Lumsden have been better off going to Winnipeg? Fred Reid is hobbled, and the backfield in Calgary is already crowded with Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish. If Lumsden wants to play, he should have gone to Winnipeg. I guess he'd rather try to ride a good team's coattails to a Grey Cup. Why does that not surprise me?
  7. While it was nothing Earth shattering, Stevie Baggs's Tiger-Cat debut was quite good. He had a couple of tackles and a strip-sack of Darian Durant. It wasn't a dominant performance, but if it is a sign of things to come, Baggs will turn out to be a great signing.
  8. Anyone who frequents the Tiger-Cat forum knows that many fans have been having some fun with Dylan Barker's lack of success with interceptions. Well, he finally got one. Not only that, but yours truly correctly predicted back in August that Barker's first INT would come this week against the Riders. You may now start calling me Blogstradamus.
  9. What an absolutely great catch by Weston Dressler.
  10. Congratulations to Arland Bruce for being the first player in the CFL this season to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Bruce has never led the league in receiving at the end of the season. Hopefully that changes this year.
  11. Is it OK to ask whether Casey Printers is done? He has not looked good since he left for the NFL. He was terrible in Hamilton and has done nothing to help BC. Perhaps his magical 2004 season was the exception, not the rule. It sure looks like he doesn't have it anymore to me.
  12. Year after year we see teams get out to hot starts and then swoon around October. It looks like Calgary is following that trend. Losing to the Riders in Regina is acceptable. Losing at home to a then 3-8 BC team? Ouch.
  13. Last season, Henry Burris started off like gangbusters, then hit a rough patch starting in October. If this week's performance is any indication, he might be headed in the same direction. Last season, he was the presumed front runner for MOP, then faded. Isn't he the front runner for MOP again this season? History may be repeating itself. If so, Stampeder fans should be worried.
  14. As hard as it is to believe, this week marked the first time that a Wally Buono-coached team beat a John Hufnagel-coached team. Very odd that it took over two years for the Lions to beat the Stamps again.
  15. Is there any worse team that has two better wins than the Lions? They are 4-8 and have a win at Montreal (where they snapped a 13-game Alouette winning streak) and at Calgary (where they handed the Stamps their first home loss of 2010). How can a team that is four games below .500 beat two teams that may play for the Grey Cup?
  16. Since beating the mighty Alouettes, the Toronto Argonauts are an absolutely horrendous 1-4. At one point the Argos were 5-2 and the talk of the league. Now they're 6-6 and trying to figure out how to right the ship. Because of how bad the Bombers have been, it's still likely that the Argos will make the playoffs, but it's doubtful they will go very far.
  17. Fantastic hustle play by Jeff Johnson. While the Argos still lost the game, Johnson never gave up and saved the Argos a touchdown.
  18. Elliott Richardson had two interceptions and would have had a touchdown had it not been for the aforementioned hustle play by Jeff Johnson. Richardson was the unexpected star of Touchdown Atlantic.
  19. Is this finally the time that Calvin McCarty will break out as many have hoped he would? A two-TD game in Moncton could help to establish McCarty as a starting Running Back for the Eskimos with Arkee Whitlock out for the season. Perhaps when Whitlock returns next year, he and McCarty can form a dynamic duo like Reynolds and Cornish do in Calgary.
  20. The bubble had to burst sooner or later. After weeks of going 2-0 or 3-1, I finally dipped below .500 on my weekly picks. I could have easily gone 3-1 had the Bombers and Cats been able to protect leads at home. The only one I was way off on was the Stampeders. But I went 1-3, and now sit at 26-22 for the year. Not a bad record, but not great either. Hopefully I do better next week.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Cats in Moncton?

Don't worry, I'm not talking about the team moving there. So don't have a heart attack. But with the roaring success of this year's Touchdown Atlantic game between the Eskimos and Argonauts, there is already talk about who will play that game next year.

If rumours are to be believed, it looks like we Tiger-Cat fans will be losing a home game. While this is not confirmed at all (and probably won't be for some time), when the Tiger-Cats host the Calgary Stampeders next season, it won't be at Ivor Wynne.

I am not surprised by this at all. Toronto gave up a home game to play in Moncton this season, and the Cats are the logical next team to fly east. Calgary is notoriously a tough sell at the gate. Crowds are usually very low, among the lowest of any game all year, and it would make sense to take that game and sell out a stadium in the Maritimes.

While it would suck to lose a home game, what's good for the league is good for team. The rumours are probably accurate, and Touchdown Atlantic II will be between the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Saskatchewan 32, Hamilton 25

This was a tough one, no doubt. While it was a very exciting game, the outcome was very difficult to stomach. Hamilton played a very good game, but mistakes at inopportune times cost them the win. This was a game that the Cats had, but let get away. It's one of those games that shows that Hamilton is a good team, but not yet a great one.

Positives
First and foremost, another great game running the ball by DeAndra' Cobb. Another huge statistical performance for the much maligned Running Back. Cobb ran the ball with purpose and seemed to see the holes with ease. There was one big negative in his game, but that will be discussed later.

An offshoot of Cobb's performance is that the O-Line seems to be gelling well heading down the stretch. Sacks are a rarity, and now the holes are opening up in the running game. Kudos to the Offensive Line for fixing the problems in their run blocking.

Dave Stala put together a very fine game. He led the team in receiving and made key catches, as usual, on second down. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again sometime soon, but Stala has been a great acquisition for the Cats. I couldn't be happier that he is on this team.

Negatives
The only place to start is with... DeAndra' Cobb. Those fumbles killed the Cats. Both of them were inside the red zone, with the second one being lost at the one-yard line, and it's mistakes like that that kill teams. You can't take away plays and have the game stay the same in every other respect, but one has to wonder just what the final score would have been had Cobb been able to keep a firm grip on the ball.

While I liked a lot about the offensive play calling tonight, I have to take issue with one thing. When you have Arland Bruce, arguably the best Receiver in the CFL, why is he not being targeted more? He had one very bad dropped pass, but he needs to be fed the ball. Look at what he did the last time against Saskatchewan. Now, I'm sure the Riders did everything they could to minimize Bruce's impact, but when he gets the ball in his hands early and often, good things happen.

Five cracks from the one-yard line are four tries too many. Had it not been for two Saskatchewan penalties, the Cats would have once again been stuffed on the goal line. This has been a problem for way too long, and it needed to be fixed two years ago and still hasn't been. It's cost the team games in the past, and it's likely to cost them games in the future as well.

Two of Saskatchewan's TDs were terrible. Twice the Cats' Defense gave up huge passing plays that resulted in touchdowns. One of those a game is unacceptable, but to allow two is indefensible. The Cats have done a great job all season long of not giving up the big play. The Defense has played the typical bend-but-don't-break style that is Greg Marshall's calling card, but this was one time that the 'D' bent some and broke some.

While this has nothing to do with the actual game on the field, I had the great displeasure of sitting next to a completely clueless Roughrider fan. I have absolutely no problem with people going into another team's park to cheer on their team. Lord knows I've done my fair share of hootin' an' hollerin' at the Rogers Centre SkyDome when the Cats visit Toronto to play the Argonauts, but this Rider fan was a complete buffoon. Every play that went the Riders' way was celebrated as if it was the greatest play of all time, and every play that went against Saskatchewan was the worst in sports history. I kid you not, this guy jumped up and clapped at a four-yard run. A four. yard. run. He acted as if it was the greatest run in football history. Then, Arland Bruce catches a screen pass, and the guy shakes his head in disbelief. Like he's stunned that anyone would dare be able to gain yards on God's team. Any flag that went against Saskatchewan was bogus; any against Hamilton was just "good refereeing." It's fans like that that make me angry. Celebrate, cheer, even get in the face of some loud-mouth homers, but please, have some sense. When you act like a fool, you're just embarrassing yourself.

Final Thoughts
This game really didn't show anything other than that the Riders and Tiger-Cats are two very evenly matched, good-but-not-great teams. Neither of these teams is a juggernaut, and neither is terrible. This game did not establish anything that we didn't already know.

It's nice to see Cobb string two very impressive games together. Had he not fumbled, he'd be the toast of the town based on his last two games. However, he did fumble, and that is problematic. He's had fumbling problems since arriving in Hamilton, and it seems like there is always something wrong with his game that stops him from being a dependable, reliable runner.

At the end of the day, a loss sucks, but at least it was an entertaining football game. However, with the talent on this team, being entertaining isn't good enough anymore. This team should be winning these games. Championship football teams win these games. Right now the Tiger-Cats are not playing like a championship-caliber team. They are a good team with a lot of talent, that's undeniable. They are most definitely a playoff team. But the Cats were these things last season; this season was about stepping up to join the upper echelon of the league, to join the Calgarys and Montreals of the world. Getting into the playoffs was no longer the goal. The goal was to win a Grey Cup. That begs the question: is this team a Grey Cup contender? To be honest, I don't know anymore. I hold out hope that they are, but every time they lose to a team that is a contender, it makes me wonder whether the Cats are at the bottom of the top or the top of the bottom.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Preview: Roughriders (7-4) at Tiger-Cats (6-5)





vs.





I have no idea where to begin this week's preview. I mean, it's not like there is some built-in storyline for this game or anything.

Of course there is. This game will be entirely centred around one thing: Stevie Baggs.

Not only is Baggs making his 2010 debut with a new team, but he is facing his old team for the first time. The man known as Shakespeare (because all he does is make big plays) will suit up, Barney Stinson style, in the Black & Gold to take on the deadly disease known as Gang Green.

Another interesting subplot going into the contest, is that the Tiger-Cats have taken many steps to chide the Riders and their fans. It's been funny stuff like creating a meat helmet to counter the melon heads or showing the new shampoo craze in Saskatchewan: Fantuz Flakes (which comes in three great scents: watermelon, barnyard and corner gas).

Interesting pregame shenanigans aside, the game itself should be very entertaining. Both of these teams are very evenly matched. Both are coming off impressive wins last week, with the Riders beating the Stamps and the Cats defeating the Lions. With both teams coming into the game following victories, each team has the confidence it needs to defeat the other. Should be a heck of a game at Ivor Wynne.

Just a reminder that it's a Blackout game. The team is hoping that every fan in attendance will wear as much black as possible to counteract the green that traveling Rider fans wear. I can only imagine how dark the stadium is going to look tomorrow night.

As always, if you cannot make it out to the park, AM900 CHML and Y108 have you covered should you choose to listen on the radio, while TSN and TSN HD have the television coverage.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 13

Unlucky 13. I've been on a bit of a roll lately, once again going 3-1 with my weekly picks. I've put together a nice string of successes recently after my early-season miscalculations. I will say that Week 13 does pose the hardest set of games I've had to choose from in a while. One in particular is becoming a headache to try and decide on.

Montreal (8-3) at Winnipeg (3-8)

This is the one. This is the game that has been giving me fits. For some reason I just cannot shake the feeling that the Bombers will pull this one out. I don't know why, but that's how I feel. Yet I say to myself that there is no way that the East Division-leading Alouettes are going to lose to the last-place Blue Bombers. I've gone with my gut before and it has paid off. I'm going with my gut again.

Winner: Winnipeg, 28-27

Saskatchewan (7-4) at Hamilton (6-5)

Both of these teams are coming off big wins last week, with the Riders beating the Stamps and the Cats beating the Lions in BC. Both teams have had middling performances in the recent past as well. These teams, for all intents and purposes, match up very well. I expect this to be a very even game. No surprise, I give the home team the edge.

Winner: Hamilton, 30-27

British Columbia (3-8) at Calgary (9-2)

This one is pretty simple: Calgary is coming off a loss, and they will not lose two in a row.

Winner: Calgary, 38-23

Edmonton (2-9) at Toronto (6-5)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that this game is not being played in Toronto. Touchdown Atlantic is finally here. This game will be played in Moncton, New Brunswick, and is the first step toward what I am hopeful will be a franchise located somewhere in Atlantic Canada in the future. When this game was chosen as the one that would be played out East, I'm sure no one thought these two teams would have these two records. Well, I'm sure people thought that a 2-9 and 6-5 team would be playing, but that the 2-9 team would be the Argonauts and the 6-5 team would be the Eskimos. Regardless of who wins, this is a great game for the CFL. But one team has to win, and for no reason whatsoever, I'm taking Edmonton.

Winner: Edmonton, 29-25

Recap
Winnipeg, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton

Season Record: 25-19

There Goes the Neighbourhood

It looks like Jason Jimenez's punishment isn't enough for some CFL players.

Korey Banks says that it's "an eye for an eye." Well, Mr. Banks, there goes your moral high ground. I agree that what Jimenez did crossed the line, but now the Lions are going to mete out their own punishment? That's laughable. First, to say it is idiotic. Now when Jimenez does get attacked, it's clearly premeditated. This would be an easily suspendable offense. I have to think that Korey Banks won't be participating in any MENSA-sponsored challenges after being stupid enough to make his plans known to the public (and the commissioner).

Further down in the article there are quotes from Adriano Belli. The very same Adriano Belli who was suspended for the first game this season after storming into the Montreal Alouettes' dressing room following a game last season. Anyone who has spent 12 seconds around me knows I hate Adriano Belli. I can't stand the man, and if I ever saw him in person I would probably punch him right in the face. (I pray every day that I go to Toronto that I will see him walking down the street, but alas, it has yet to occur. Maybe one day.) For Belli to show indignation at someone else for playing dirty is hilarious. I can't think of a dirtier player than Adriano Belli. He needs to just keep his fat mouth shut.

All this attention being given to Jimenez's hit, and now with the retribution angle being planted, is actually making me side with Jimenez. In a roundabout way, I find myself now taking the position that Jimenez is a victim. It's a very odd feeling. The same sort of thing happened during the summer with the whole Albert Haynesworth-Mike Shanahan fiasco in Washington. I started off blaming Haynesworth, and then once people started piling on him, I felt sorry for him. That's what now seems to be occurring with this Jimenez situation.

In my eyes you can only villainize a guy for so long before he's no longer the bad guy. Maybe this is my homerism kicking in. Maybe if the rolls were reversed and the Cats were vowing revenge on some other player on another team I'd be all for it. I probably would be. But that's beside the point. I cannot stress enough that what Jimenez did was wrong. I even think he probably should have been suspended for it. But for players on other teams to now be plotting retaliation against Jimenez has the opposite effect. I'm sure there are plenty of people in BC and around Canada that disagree with me, and I understand that. But this is my forum, and these are my thoughts.

Though maybe this whole retribution thing isn't so bad. After all, if players are focused solely on getting a measure of revenge on Jason Jimenez, it might take their minds out of the game, allowing for the Cats to roll up on some teams. I've seen it happen before in other sports and other leagues. Maybe this was Jimenez's plan all along. If so, well played. No better way to win a game than to get the mental edge right from the start.

I guess we'll see where this goes. I'm sure the league office will be keeping a very close eye on Tiger-Cat games for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Jimenez Fined

Jason Jimenez has been fined for his hit on BC Lions' Defensive Lineman Brent Johnson. He was fined the maximum allowed, which is one-half game cheque, but we are unsure as to how much money that actually is because CFL salaries are not made public.

Many were calling for Jimenez's head following his low blow on Johnson. Some were saying he should be suspended, some were saying the Cats should cut him, and others went even further, saying that Jimenez should be banned from the league. A suspension I could have understood, and he probably should have been suspended, but cutting him wouldn't have done anything (another team would have signed him, guaranteed), and banning him would have been going overboard. The punishment should fit the crime, as the saying goes, and what Jimenez did was not worthy of being banned for life.

This is not the first time Jimenez has been on the wrong side of the CFL law. He was suspended for one game following a hit he put on former Calgary Stampeders' Defensive Lineman Anthony Gargiulo in 2007 that ended Gargiulo's career. Jimenez appealed the suspension and won. If anything was going to get him banned, it should have been this incident. One player's career being ended because of a dirty hit would be worthy of banishment.

Now far be it for me to defend Jimenez, because I find what he did abhorrent. But as someone who once played football, I know that having respect for your opponent is key. I may not have liked any of the players I played against (ask any of my former teammates; no one could manufacture hate quite like me), but I always respected them enough not to injure them.

That said, when Brent Johnson, who was a former teammate of Jimenez's in BC, comes out and says that Jimenez should be gone from the CFL, I ask myself, "Self, did Brent Johnson feel that way three years ago when he was Jimenez's teammate and he ended Gargiulo's career? Or did he just brush it off and defend his teammate?" It's this self-righteous attitude that I am finding myself having a problem with, especially from a former teammate like Brent Johnson. Detest what Jimenez did, even speak out against it, but don't go overboard. He was fined, and I imagine he'll be getting monitored more closely by the league from here on out.

Case closed.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Knowlton Named Defensive Player of the Week

After a stellar performance on Saturday night, Markeith Knowlton has been named the CFL's Defensive Player of the Week for Week 12.

The man known as The Monster had an absolutely phenomenal game, recording three tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His interception off Casey Printers helped spark the Tiger-Cats' comeback.

This is the first Defensive Player of the Week award for Knowlton, who was named Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 10 after blocking a punt and recovering it for a touchdown. An all-around great performance that deserved to be recognized.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Worst Fear Realized

It looks like Bo Smith is back with the Tiger-Cats.

I've made my feelings known about Smith before, but in case there are any new readers, I'll repeat them.

Bo Smith, to put it frankly, sucks. All the crap that fans have thrown at Jason Shivers this season was thrown at Bo Smith last season. He made a lot of mistakes and was a complete liability out there. I usually defer to the front office on matters such as this, but their constant praise of Bo Smith is completely baffling. He was the very model of inconsistency last season. He made a couple of plays, but he got beat far too often.

People will say, "Well, the Jets thought he was good, so he must be good." Just because he got an NFL tryout does not mean he is good. It just means that people with the Jets baffle me as well. Maybe I have to reevaluate my feelings about Rex Ryan. Of course, they cut him, so their decision making isn't that bad.

What I don't understand is why bring Smith back? I know the Secondary is banged up (Jykine Bradley is out and Jason Shivers was injured on Saturday), but Ryan Hinds filled in rather well for Shivers and almost everyone has been clamouring for Will Heyward to get on the field, so it's not like the Secondary needs reinforcement. It especially doesn't need crappy reinforcement. It doesn't need Bo Smith.

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 12)

It was a busy week in the CFL prior to Week 12 action. Ricky Foley signed in Toronto; Stevie Baggs signed in Hamilton; Eric Tillman was named the General Manager in Edmonton. But that action paled in comparison to the action on the field on Friday and Saturday. Two exquisitely played games in Regina and Vancouver got the weekend off to a good start. CFL football is still the best football on the planet.
  1. I don't care if the Riders won the game; the decision to try for the single instead of kicking a 35-yard field goal was stupid beyond belief. What was the coaching staff thinking?
  2. What an amazing game by Andy Fantuz. He showed why people think he's the best Canadian Receiver in the CFL. Also, it was the second big game for a Receiver at Mosaic. Arland Bruce had his career game there earlier in the season. Mosaic seems to be the place for awesome performances.
  3. Speaking of awesome performances, what a great game that was between the Riders and Stamps. The best game of the year after the Canada Day Comeback. Maybe this one can be called the Mosaic Miracle because it was a miracle that the stupid call to try for the single didn't cost the Riders the game. Aside from that, this was one of the most interesting football games all year. Another great one for the Americans watching on NFL Network.
  4. James Patrick has had a great season so far, but imagine how good it would be if penalties hadn't stolen three of his interceptions. The guy seems snakebitten since his big three-interception day.
  5. With Jon Cornish already in-house, why are the Stamps even considering talking to Jesse Lumsden? Lumsden is not needed in Calgary (or anywhere else, in my opinion). Then again, maybe the Lumsden signing will make Cornish want to move elsewhere. I know a nice, blue-collar city in Southern Ontario that would love have him call it home.
  6. Coming on the heels of the instant classic between Calgary and Saskatchewan, there was no way the Hamilton-BC game could match it. Well, it came pretty close. It was a very exciting and entertaining game. Those that stayed up late (in the Eastern time zone) were rewarded with a great contest.
  7. Congratulations to Reggie Fish on getting his first catch in the CFL. Hopefully that is the first of many, not only in the CFL, but with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
  8. That was a great catch by Arland Bruce for the touchdown. Just another reason why he's the very best in the CFL.
  9. Welcome back to the CFL, Paris Jackson. He had been MIA for most of the year, but finally broke out against Hamilton. That's the Paris Jackson we all remember.
  10. I know Winnipeg are 3-8, but I cannot stop gushing over Steven Jyles. I just really enjoy watching him play. Winnipeg has found a really good one in Jyles. If his Receivers could hold on to the bloody football, he'd look even better than he already does.
  11. On the flip side, Cleo Lemon is not the answer in Toronto. He doesn't seem to be progressing at all. In fact, I'd hazard to say he's regressing. Sure, the Argos are 6-5 (and raise your hand if you thought they'd win six games all season), but they will not win in the playoffs with Lemon at QB.
  12. With Winnipeg having lost the season series to both the Tiger-Cats and the Argonauts, it is going to be a tough sled for the Bombers to get into the playoffs, at least in the East. They still have the chance to cross over to the West (they are tied with BC currently), but they would have to win one more game than both the Argos and Cats to get a spot in the East bracket. That's not likely.
  13. Mike O'Shea is showing that he is one gusty play caller. Calling for a direct-snap fake punt on 3rd and 16? That shows a lot of stones.
  14. I know that a win is a win is a win, but the Argos are in trouble without Cory Boyd. The replacements (Jeff Johnson, Andre Durie, Bryan Crawford and Anthony Aldridge) filled in admirably, but the Bomber Defense did not respect the run at all. With Boyd in there, teams are forced to focus on stopping him. Without him in there, the game is put in Lemon's hands, and that's a recipe for disaster.
  15. Anthony Calvillo didn't look rusty at all in his return from injury. He didn't dominate, but he looked like Anthony Calvillo. There were a couple of near interceptions (as well as one actual interception), but the Als won 31-14, and that's really all that matters.
  16. Sometimes we make proclamations that turn out to be not so wise. My declaration that Montreal would not finish first in the East is turning out to be one of those. I have always given Montreal the benefit of the doubt, but for some reason I went against my better judgment. I won't be doing that again.
  17. Eric Tillman has a lot of work to do in Edmonton. They are going to win a couple more games this year, but for all intents and purposes, the season is over for the Eskimos. They still have a chance to get to the playoffs, but does this look like a playoff team to anyone? I didn't think so.
  18. I wondered last week why the CFL would schedule games on Sunday once the NFL started back up, and now I have to wonder why the CFL would schedule a double header on the second Sunday of September? One of the games was in Toronto, where they have a hard enough time getting fans without the NFL on TV. I know the CFL is a great league, but like I said last week, they cannot compete with the NFL machine. Play the games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (there was one game on Saturday, and it didn't start until 10PM EST) and avoid Sunday at all cost.
  19. I know it has nothing to do with this week, but I am really excited for next week's game in Moncton between Edmonton and Toronto. Hopefully this is the first step in seeing an expansion team in Atlantic Canada.
  20. Another very good week for my picks as it was another 3-1 week, with the only blemish being the Bombers losing to the Argos. That puts my yearly mark at a very respectable 25-19.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Hamilton 35, BC 31

What a great football game. That was just an absolute treat to watch. Back-and-forth action from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. For those of you that stayed up, consider yourselves lucky, because you got to watch what, in my opinion, was the best game the Cats have played all season.

Positives
Some much maligned players are about to get a great big helping of love. This section will be a little bit of a mea culpa.

I have to start with DeAndra' Cobb. This was, by far, his best game. A season-high 151 yards while being fed the ball consistently, allowing Cobb to establish a rhythm that allowed him to be effective. Last year, Cobb broke out against the Lions in BC. This year, here's hoping he refound his game against the Lions in BC.

Next up: Maurice Mann. I was less than understanding when it came to Mo Mann's Twitter rants. He got his chance to be the go-to guy and he put up numbers. With a little aid from the zebras, Mann had by far his best game this season. Here's hoping that this is the start of the Mo Mann the Cats thought they were getting when they traded for him.

I think it is safe to say that the slump is over. Sandro DeAngelis showed why he was so coveted this off-season. DeAngelis was five for five on field goals and hit a very clutch kick with less than one minute remaining. It's nice to see that Sandro DeAngelis finally suit up.

Finally, we have Chris Bauman. That was a great catch. Bauman has been in the dog house ever since his drop against the Riders in July, but the catch on the go-ahead TD was brilliant. He kept his concentration and took it to the house. Very nice job.

Some shine goes to the Defense as well. Creating five, yes FIVE, turnovers was the key to winning the game. The two biggest contributors were Markeith Knowlton and Justin Hickman. Knowlton seemed to be everywhere, and Hickman played like a man possessed. I can't wait to see how good this Defense will be with McIntyre back and Stevie Baggs in the lineup. It's going to be frightening for the rest of the teams in the CFL.

Negatives
Even in a great game, there are some things that need to be rectified.

The first thing that comes to mind was the ridiculous number of penalties, especially major fouls. Jason Jimenez, Jeremy Gibbs and Yannick Carter all took stupid penalties. That needs to stop, like, yesterday.

The red-zone offense still leaves a lot to be desired. Kevin Glenn's decision making needs work as well. That was an absolutely brutal interception late in the first half. With a chip-shot field goal on the line, Glenn throws a completely indefensible interception that killed the drive. That's not the first time Glenn has done that. Glenn played a very good game, but he needs to cut out the bonehead plays when the team is in the red zone.

Final Thoughts
That was a great game and a great win by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It is never easy to go to BC and win, and the Cats have now done that two season in a row. The Cats shook off the previous week's letdown against the Als and came out ready to play. That shows that this team has heart and focus. The coaching staff deserves kudos for instilling those values in the team.

The Cats have now won five of their last six and are back within two points of Montreal (who have yet to play this week). It was very nice to see the Cats come out and play like this, especially after last week. What a great game; what a great win. Way to go Cats!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Preview: Tiger-Cats (5-5) at Lions (3-7)





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I'm not going to make the standard cat joke. No talking about fur flying or any of that jazz. These are two teams that have not met since a fateful day in November of 2009.

Both teams come into this contest on a slight roll. While the Cats did get trounced in their last game against Montreal, they did win their previous four games and still sit in second place in the East. BC, who limped into their bye week at a horrendous 1-7, have won two straight and look to have things back on track.

For the Cats, the trip to Vancouver is always a difficult one. It's never easy for an East team to fly west and get a win against BC, but last year Hamilton went into BC Place and defeated the Lions. This year the game will be played at Empire Field (BC Place is undergoing renovations), and the new stadium could be a wild card in this matchup. One thing is for certain: the Tabbies need to find a way to energize a moribund running game. It was last year, in BC, that DeAndra' Cobb exploded onto the scene. He had his best games against the Lions, so a trip to the West Coast may be just what the doctor ordered.

For the Lions, it is all about continuing what they have been doing since their bye. Casey Printers hasn't had to do it all by himself, which is good. The platoon of RBs that the Leos keep trotting out week after week is as impressive as any in the league. If it's not Jamal Robertson, it's Yonus Davis. If it's not Davis, it's Jamall Lee. If it's not Lee, it's Jerome Messam. It's just impressive the type of production that BC has been getting out of whomever they put behind the QB.

Newly acquired Defensive Lineman Stevie Baggs will not suit up for the Cats this week, so the Lions won't have to worry about him making life miserable for Casey Printers. (Side note: does this mean Baggs will debut against his former team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Week 13?)

There isn't much rivalry to speak of between the Lions and Tiger-Cats, but with Printers as the QB and last year's playoff loss still fresh in the minds of fans, the Hamilton faithful have grown to dislike their feline cousins to the west. Damn it, I did make a terrible cat reference.

This is a late kickoff (10PM), but the good folks at AM900 CHML and Y108 will have you covered should you choose to listen on the radio while lying in bed. If, like me, you'll be staying up late to watch, it's TSN or TSN HD for you.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 12

Another week at 3-1 has helped up my yearly totals to 22 wins and 18 losses. I think that's pretty good. Chris Schultz is 21-19, so I'm at least ahead of one professional. Picking games is hard because it's mostly based on luck and gut instincts. Last week my gut told me to take the Bombers and Lions, even though they were underdogs. Both the Bombers and Lions won, so it paid off. Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. Sometimes you'll roll snake eyes, but sometimes you won't. Besides, where's the fun in not taking a chance every now and then?

Calgary (9-1) at Saskatchewan (6-4)

No team is playing better than the Calgary Stampeders. Only one loss on the season, and they have been steamrolling opponents as of late. The Roughriders have been struggling lately, losing two games (against Edmonton and Winnipeg) many thought they'd win handily. I think a raucous home crowd is just what the doctor ordered for the Riders.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 39-35

Hamilton (5-5) at British Columbia (3-7)

The Tiger-Cats come limping into this contest with the Lions both physically (injuries are piling up) and emotionally (after getting pounded by Montreal in Week 11). BC, on the other hand, is riding a two-game winning streak, and look to be back to playing good football. All the signs point to a BC win (west-coast game, played at night, BC playing good football, Cats looked lousy last week) but none of that matters. I'm never going to pick against Hamilton. I'd rather pick them and be wrong than not pick them and be right.

Winner: Hamilton, 33-25

Winnipeg (3-7) at Toronto (5-5)

The Argos look to be in some trouble. The feel-good story (not for me, because I hate the Argos) of the first half of the season in the CFL has hit a rough patch. Losers of their last three, and now Cory Boyd, their best player BY FAR, will miss at least this week's game. The Bombers are flying high after winning the Banjo Bowl, and with Steven Jyles at Quarterback, the Bombers are a better team.

Winner: Winnipeg, 27-15

Edmonton (2-8) at Montreal (7-3)

Eric Tillman or no Eric Tillman, this is a lost season in Edmonton. Anthony Calvillo or no Anthony Calvillo, Montreal is better than Edmonton.

Winner: Montreal, 30-17

Recap
Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Montreal

Season Record: 22-18

Your a Whack Ass Player

Don't worry, the above title is grammatically incorrect for a reason. As much as it pains me to put it that way, it will make sense further down, trust me. If not, feel free to send me hate mail and call me an idiot in the comment section.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. These are words that didn't exist (well, 'twitter' did) less than a decade ago. Social media is about being able to interact on a personal, yet impersonal, level. You share what you want to share with whom you want to share it.

However, when it comes to professional athletes these newer forms of interacting directly with fans can have an ugly side. Take, for instance, this week's hubbub over Maurice Mann's Twitter hissy fit.

As most probably know, Maurice Mann is a Wide Receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Most also probably know that he hasn't been having the greatest of seasons. He has only 24 catches for 309 yards and two TDs. Mann blames his statistical problems on not getting the ball enough. Fair enough. All Receivers believe they should get more touches, so this is nothing new.

Where he stepped over the line was when he posted: "When your best players don't touch the ball in big games... #yourawhackasscoach" (See, I told you the title would make sense later on.)

First, let me start by saying that Maurice Mann is hardly one of the team's best players. I don't care what he did last year in Edmonton; so far this season he has dropped passes way too often that, if he was as good as he thinks he is, should have been hauled in. Heck, his first ever catch for the Tiger-Cats, he fumbled. He has dropped countless other passes since then that are inexcusable for one of the team's "best players."

Next, calling out your coach? Not a good idea. In fact, it's a stupid idea. The Cats traded an All-Star DB in Chris Thompson to get Mann. As I've said before, Obie was snookered on this one. Clearly, if we're judging the winner of this trade, it's the Eskies by a mile. Mann is starting to become everything people were worried Arland Bruce would be when he was traded here last season. You don't see Mr. Bruce on Twitter calling out the coaches when he doesn't get the ball. Besides, Mann should worry more about catching the passes that come his way than about tweeting his feelings about the coach (who, in my humble opinion, is far from "whack ass").

Maurice Mann, go out there and catch the damn ball. If you held on to the passes that came your way, you wouldn't have been on Twitter calling anyone out.

I know I'm a little late in talking about this, and since the story came out a couple of days ago, Maurice Mann has deactivated his Twitter account. The reason that I was late with this was that I didn't have a Twitter account. Yes, I said "didn't." Earlier today, I did something I never thought I'd do: I signed up for Twitter. I figure if the people and subjects I am going to be talking about use it, I would be in dereliction of duty to not also be using these platforms to follow what is going on. I don't plan on tweeting a lot myself (of course, I also at one time said I'd never use Facebook, and that turned out to be a filthy lie), but I will be on it in order to get the latest information I can. I write these posts strictly as a hobby, but that doesn't mean I don't take it seriously. You, my loyal readers, respect me enough to come read what I write; the least I can do is try to get the information I can from as many sources as possible. So as of today, I am officially a Twitterer... a Tweeter... a whatever the hell it's called.

Baggs, Long & Lumsden Make For a Busy Early Afternoon

The Stevie Baggs signing is now official. He is a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I have already made my thoughts known on what I think Baggs will bring to the team, so I won't get into that here.

You'll see at the bottom of the Tiger-Cats press release about the signing of Stevie Baggs that the team has cut Defensive Lineman Khari Long. My guess is that the move was necessary because of the Baggs signing. I had really high hopes for Long coming into this season, but injuries have hampered him all year. It's a shame because Long showed so much promised coming into his sophomore year after a very good first season.

Finally, after much speculation, Jesse Lumsden has turned down the opportunity to join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With talk yesterday that the Calgary Stampeders were interested, I'm not that surprised that Lumsden would turn down the Bombers. It'll be interesting to see if Calgary signs him. I don't know why they would. They have a better Jesse Lumsden in Jon Cornish.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Check Your Baggs, Stevie's Coming to Hamilton

According to the Spectator's Drew Edwards, former Saskatchewan Roughriders Defensive Lineman Stevie Baggs is about to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Now, before we all get excited, let's wait until this becomes official. We all saw what happened this week with Ricky Foley and the Lions and Argos.

But for a second let's act like this is a done deal. Adding Stevie Baggs, a pass-rushing monster, is nothing short of awesome. An already great front four just got greater. Baggs will be a tremendous addition to the roster, and if he plays like he did last season in Saskatchewan, look out. With John Chick, they formed one of the most dominant D-Line tandems in recent CFL history. I cannot wait to see what Baggs will do for Garrett McIntyre.

I will provide a caution to all, myself included. The last two big-ticket free agents the Tiger-Cats signed after NFL cuts were Casey Printers (2007) and Kenton Keith (2008). To put it politely, those moves didn't work out. To put it honestly, they sucked. Hopefully, the Baggs signing will start a new trend.

Baggs is going to look very nice in Black & Gold. Welcome to Tigertown, Stevie.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 11)

The dog days of summer are behind us, and it's starting to get a little chillier outside. It's football weather. I can't think of anything better than an autumn day watching football. From now until the Grey Cup is my favourite time of the year.
  1. Congratulations to Joffrey Reynolds for becoming the all-time rushing-yards leader in Calgary Stampeder history this past week. A very deserving honour for Joffrey Reynolds.
  2. I have been trying to figure it out, but I really do not understand why Glen Suitor says,"See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya" after an interception. I mean, I get it, but it doesn't make all that much sense. Who does the defensive player not want to be? The Quarterback? The guy chasing him? Suitor? I think he needs to find a new catchphrase.
  3. I can't think of a better way for a player to start his CFL career than Marco Mitchell hauling in a 69-yard TD for the Eskimos. It was his only catch of the game, but it was a nice one.
  4. One of two things has happened to Calgary rookie Kicker Rob Maver: (a) he's lost his confidence, or (b) he's hit the proverbial Rookie Wall. Either way, Calgary is lucky they haven't needed him to win games in the past couple of weeks because Maver has been shaky.
  5. As always I attended the game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. As is the case with most visiting teams, the home team will play a silly song to introduce them. For the second year in a row, the Als have felt they are too good to trot out during this time. They then proceed to come out during the Tiger-Cats' introduction. This, to me, is a classless act. Just get on the damn field.
  6. I have defended him for over a year, but now it's time to admit I was wrong. Quinton Porter just does not seem to have it. He has all the tools, but he lacks the smarts, and football is more about what you can do with your head than what you can do with your arm and feet.
  7. After having staved off injury for most of the season, the Cats have been bit by the bug in the last two games. No less than five players have been injured in some capacity since Labour Day. Staying healthy is a key to winning football games, and up to this point, the Cats have been winning and staying healthy. Let's see what happens now that some injuries have occurred.
  8. I understand why Adrian McPherson wanted to be traded or released. He can start for any number of teams in the CFL. Before too long he'll either be replacing Anthony Calvillo or starting for another team.
  9. Interesting story about how if not for 9/11, Geroy Simon would probably have been a Hamilton Tiger-Cat. I wonder how things would have worked out had Geroy donned the Black & Gold.
  10. The Leon Lett Memorial Bonehead Play of the Year award goes to Ronald Flemons of the Toronto Argonauts. If you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, words cannot describe how stupid it was.
  11. It must have been a sweet weekend for BC Lion, and former Toronto Argo, Jonathan Brown. He had a very good game against his former mates.
  12. We're ten games into the season and Cleo Lemon still looks lost on many plays. I'm wondering if the Argos wished they had moved Heaven and Earth to get Adrian McPherson. I know I would.
  13. That was a scary, scary hit on Cory Boyd. He said he was knocked out, so hopefully it's nothing too serious (amateur medical diagnosis: concussion) and he'll be back on the field before too long.
  14. After such a promising start, the Argos are mired in a three-game losing streak. Where once there was talk about surpassing the Als, there is now talk of whether Winnipeg will catch Toronto. It's been a very bad four weeks for the Double Blue.
  15. While the Argos founder, the Lions are starting to roar. They've won two straight and face a battered and beaten Tiger-Cat team at Empire Field in Week 12. The Leos could have their first three-game winning streak and put all ugliness of their 1-7 start behind them.
  16. If football is king, then the NFL is the King of Kings. Why, then, would the CFL put nine games on Sunday following Labour Day when they had three Sunday games during the summer months? The CFL is a great game, but it's going to get rolled over by the NFL machine. Leave Sundays to the NFL; take Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  17. My vote for worst free-agent signing has got to go to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for picking up Dominque Dorsey. Not only has Dorsey done nothing in the return game, the Riders released Marcus Thigpen because they signed Dorsey. I bet they would like to have that decision back right about now.
  18. Great game by Fred Reid. Maybe all that talk of Jesse Lumsden coming in lit a spark under ol' Fred Ex's feet.
  19. All credit to Winnipeg for their dominant Banjo Bowl performance, but three turnovers were negated by Saskatchewan penalties. How different would the game have played out had those plays gone the Riders' way?
  20. I went out on a limb this week and... it paid off. I was questioned by someone about taking the Lions and Bombers, but when the smoke cleared both of those teams won. The only blemish this week was the Tiger-Cats, but another 3-1 week puts my overall record at 22-18. I hope to keep that momentum going in Week 12.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Montreal 27, Hamilton 6

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. The Tiger-Cats showed no heart, no fight, no anything. They took a second-string QB and made him look like Tracy Ham. In what was the biggest game of the year so far, the Tiger-Cats came out flatter than a Pepsi that had been left open for three days. This was supposed to be a test for the Cats? They failed, big time.

Positives
Marcus Thigpen seemed to re-find his form from earlier in the season. He had a couple of very good kick returns and was very close to taking one to the house. It was nice to see Thigpen play like he did during the first month of the season.

It seemed that the only player on Offense who came to play today was Arland Bruce. No matter what, he always puts in maximum effort. We need more players like him on the team.

Negatives
Oh, where to begin.

Kevin Glenn was terrible. This was by far his worst day as a Tiger-Cat. He gets a mulligan because he's been so good so far this season. But he really chose the worst possible time to have a bad day.

I have stood by him, I have defended him, I thought he had the tools to be a really good player, but now I am about to say something I thought I'd never say: Quinton Porter just doesn't have it. He's sat on the bench for the better part of a year, and he should have been spending that time getting better, yet he is still a one-read-then-run QB. He hasn't progressed any since his first game. It might be time to cut bait with Porter.

The running game is pathetic. Three carries for Cobb until the last play of the game, are you kidding me? That is unacceptable. Why even carry a running back if you're never going to run? Why not get rid of all pretense and just throw it every down? The play calling for this team is atrocious.

Obie, you were fleeced. I hate to say it, but the Maurice Mann for Chris Thompson trade has been a complete disaster. Mann can't catch and Thompson only has two fewer interceptions than the entire Tiger-Cat Defense. As far as I am concerned, Mann is on an even shorter leash than Cobb.

The Defense played its heart out, but they gave up way too many 2nd-and-long conversions. The run defense was particularly bad, as there were too many times that Adrian McPherson ran for big yardage. That cannot be allowed to happen if this team is going to succeed.

Final Thoughts
Just a bad game. There really isn't anything else to say. The Cats got clobbered by a better prepared Alouette team. Talk of the Cats getting ready to join the upper echelon was clearly premature. This was just a bad performance. The Cats just can't get past the Als (they have lost 20 of the last 21 to Montreal), and it seems that they put Montreal on a pedestal. Until that stops, the Als will always have the advantage.

With that said, at the end of the day, it is only one game. When the team was 1-4, I said they had to go 3-2 over their next five games for me to feel comfortable that they would still make the playoffs. In those five games, the Cats went 4-1. The Cats are 5-5 and in second place. Let's not jump off the ledge just yet.

We all knew the ride was going to end sooner or later. They weren't going win 13 straight games, and I'd rather have the bad game in Week 11 with time to regroup than in the playoffs where, a loss sends the team home.

Everyone, from coaches to players to fans, needs to put this game behind and focus on the next one. This was a bad game, but this isn't a bad team.

Friday, 10 September 2010

CFL Mid-Season Report

The beauty of professional sports is as soon as you think you know something, you realize you know nothing.

This point was hammered home the last two weeks as two of the CFL's doormats (BC and Edmonton) beat the two 2009 Grey Cup finalists (Montreal and Saskatchewan).

Those two games show just how unpredictable the CFL can be. Yet despite that unpredictability, we still make predictions. We analyze, scrutinize, then analyze some more, only to have as good a chance of getting predictions right as if we flipped a coin.

I made some predictions back in June, some bad (Calgary to finish last in the West Division and miss the playoffs), some not so bad (Jamall Johnson having a better year in 2010), some just downright stupid (seriously, Mike Labinjo an MODP nominee? What was I on?).

With the season reaching the midway point following the Labour Day weekend, I'm going to make some bold proclamations for the second half of the 2010 season.

1. Montreal Will NOT Host the East Final
Yes, I believe that Anthony Calvillo's injury is worse than Marc Trestman is letting on and he will miss significant time, in the process costing Montreal top spot in the East along with the precious bye that goes along with it. It will be the Tiger-Cats who leap up and take top spot.

2. One of Winnipeg, BC or Edmonton Will Win a Playoff Game
I don't know which team it will be, but I have the feeling that whichever one of these teams makes the playoffs, they will pull an upset, probably against the Roughriders in the West Division Semi-Final. I'm taking the Bombers.

3. Steven Jyles Will Get Winnipeg into the Playoffs
I don't know if it will come at the expense of the Eskimos or Lions, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will find a way to sneak into the playoffs and it will all be thanks to Steven Jyles. With Buck Pierce out indefinitely, Jyles is now handed the reins in Winnipeg and will pilot the Blue Bombers to a playoff game. I say they cross over into the West and take out the Riders before falling in the West Final.

4. Jesse Lumsden Will Get Hurt... Again
With the rumour being that Jesse Lumsden is likely headed to Winnipeg, let the hypefest begin again. You would think that the Bombers would have learned from the Buck Pierce fiasco, but it seems as if they haven't. We've seen this story play out every year since Lumsden decided to grace the CFL with his presence after failed tryouts in the NFL. He'll have one or two monster games, only to succumb to some injury and be useless. Winnipeg will learn what Hamilton and Edmonton already know: Jesse Lumsden cannot stay healthy.

5. Jared Zabransky Will Replace Ricky Ray as the Starter in Edmonton
Ricky Ray has been getting killed behind a porous Edmonton Offensive Line, and there is no way he makes it through the entire season without missing time. When that happens Jared Zabransky will take over as the starter and Ray will not play the rest of the season.

6. Arland Bruce Will Lead the League in Receiving
Arland Bruce is, right now, the best Receiver in the CFL. The only reason he won't be the East nominee for Most Outstanding Player is because his teammate, Kevin Glenn, will be. But Bruce will have the consolation of being the league's leading Receiver for the first time in his career. He will also flirt with Allen Pitts' single-season record of 2,036 yards. He will end up finishing about 100 yards short.

7. Wes Cates Will Break the CFL Record for Rushing TDs in a Season
Wes Cates is currently on pace to score 20 rushing TDs, which would break the single-season record of 19 set by Mike Pringle in 2000 with the Alouettes. The Saskatchewan Roughrider Running Back will break Pringle's record by scoring 22 rushing TDs before the season ends.

8. Cory Boyd Will Win the Rushing Title
Even though he has been bottled up as of late, once the Argos re-realize they need Boyd to win, they will start feeding him the ball. Boyd will rack up the carries and the yards. Boyd will win the rushing title by over 200 yards.

9. The Award Winners Will Be...
  • Most Outstanding Player: Henry Burris (beats out Kevin Glenn)
  • Most Outstanding Canadian: Dave Stala (beats out Andy Fantuz)
  • Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Jamall Johnson (beats out James Patrick)
  • Most Outstanding Lineman: Gene Makowsky (beats out Marwan Hage)*
  • Most Outstanding Rookie: Rob Maver (beats out Terrence Jeffers-Harris)**
  • Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Marcus Thigpen (beats out Paul McCallum)
  • Coach of the Year: Jim Barker (beats out Marcel Bellefeuille and John Hufnagel)
*We all know that awards for Linemen are not always merit-based, but usually reputation-based. Don't get me wrong, both Makowsky and Hage are great players, but with no really standout Linemen this season, I could see both being up for the award based on their stellar reputations.

**This one would be a no-brainer if Cory Boyd was eligible, but much like DeAndra' Cobb last year (who also would have been a near shoe-in, no disrespect to Martell Mallett), Boyd spent time on an NFL practice roster and is therefore ineligible for Most Outstanding Rookie. Instead I went with two guys I know, as no rookies have really shown me anything to warrant consideration other than Maver and Jeffers-Harris.

10. The Grey Cup Champion Will Be...
Do I really have to say it? It will be Hamilton, of course. The Tiger-Cats will meet and beat the Calgary Stampeders to win the Grey Cup. Kevin Glenn will be named the game's MVP, and Dave Stala will be named the top Canadian.

Preview: Alouettes (6-3) at Tiger-Cats (5-4)





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Prosperity is the antonym of adversity. For most of the past decade, Tiger-Cat fans have dealt mainly with the latter and less with the former.

The 2010 season started off with much adversity. A 1-4 record after the first month was met by fans with the popular refrain of "Not this again." The team itself preached that, record aside, this was a good football club. Adversity needed to be overcome.

Fast forward to the day after Labour Day and the Tiger-Cats are now 5-4, sitting in second spot in the East Division, one game behind the Alouettes. The Cats are riding a four-game winning streak and have not lost since July 31st. Prosperity has arrived.

Which leads us to what might be the most important game of the season for Hamilton so far: a matchup with the reigning Grey Cup Champions, the Montreal Alouettes.

The Cats are riding high; they have dispatched of the Bombers and Argos in the East and now set their sites on conquering the Mt. Everest of East Division teams.

This game sets up very nicely for Hamilton. Montreal will not have Anthony Calvillo in the lineup on Saturday and will start Adrian McPherson, who himself is coming off an injury. The Montreal Defense is not in the best of shape either, which could be a big problem with the way Kevin Glenn has been playing this season.

How often to the stars align like this? Not very often. But how often do things play out as expected? Even less often. While Hamilton comes into the contest with a decided edge, and while it would seem as if everything is lining up for a big Tiger-Cats win, but as we all know, pride cometh before the fall. Before we fans start marking this game down as a win, we should be mindful that on any given day, one team can beat another.

Montreal, regardless of who is playing, is still a great football team. To take them lightly would be folly. This game could be a measuring-stick game for the Cats. Win this one and consider yourself a contender. Lose and watch as people pick apart the accomplishments of the past month.

Prosperity and adversity. Will the Cats continue to prosper, or will it be time to get over another adverse situation? We'll find out on Saturday.

As always, if you don't plan on coming to the park or you simply cannot make it, AM900 CHML and Y108 will have you covered on the radio side of things, while TSN and TSN HD will provide you with your necessary television coverage.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 11

Labour Day has come and gone, and now it's time to ratchet up the intensity as the race to the playoffs truly begins. This week sees rematches and mismatches, as well as one very compelling game that could see the East Division really become interesting.

Calgary (8-1) at Edmonton (2-7)

108-20. That's the aggregate score of the two previous Calgary-Edmonton matchups. This one will not be pretty.

Winner: Calgary, 44-17

Montreal (6-3) at Hamilton (5-4)

This one is the game of the week, no doubt about it. With or without Anthony Calvillo – and right now it's looking like it will be without – this game has all the makings of a really tight contest. If Calvillo was in the lineup, I think I would take the Als. But with no Calvillo, and the Cats riding high and on a four-game winning streak, I think the Cats squeak this one out.

Winner: Hamilton, 28-25

Toronto (5-4) at British Columbia (2-7)

BC played inspired football for the first time all season last week when they went to Molson Stadium and beat Montreal. Toronto, who started hot, have cooled following two straight losses to the Tiger-Cats. This game will either be a bounce back for the Argos or the start of worry in the Big Smoke. I say... start worrying.

Winner: BC, 30-22

Saskatchewan (6-3) at Winnipeg (2-7)

The Banjo Bowl. Ever since Troy Westwood made his comment that the people of Saskatchewan were a "bunch of banjo-picking inbreds" this annual game has become quite the affair. It adds a little something to this rivalry. This year's game comes on the heals of the closest finish in last week's games (Riders won 27-23, while every other game was decided by at least two touchdowns). Buck Pierce is out, and now Steven Jyles will get the chance to show why he deserves to be a starting QB in the CFL. I haven't made many bold predictions – usually choosing to play it safe – but I'm about to make one.

Winner: Winnipeg, 27-23

Recap
Calgary, Hamilton, BC, Winnipeg

Season Record: 19-17

Fantasy Football Mid-Season Report

Fantasy football is all about one thing: the players.

Every year millions of people enjoy playing fantasy sports, and having the right players adds to that enjoyment. Of course, the reverse of that is having bad players, which can detract from one's enjoyment.

Each year players play above their expectations and below their expectations. This season in the CFL has been no different. While there have been some notable busts, there have also been some notable breakouts. Also thrown into the mix are the guys that have played exactly as they were expected to play, guys who were considered first- or second-round picks that have warranted their draft position.

Busts
At Quarterback the biggest disappointments have been Casey Printers, Buck Pierce and Ricky Ray. All players have performed at a high level in the past, and coming into 2010, fantasy owners were relying on them to help them claim a fantasy championship. A lot was expected of Printers with his return to BC. Many thought he'd be able to recapture his 2004 MOP form. Pierce was expected to be the saviour in Winnipeg, and all he's done is pick up where he left off in BC: injured. Ray has just been getting pummeled behind a porous Edmonton O-Line. All three players have been albatrosses that have dragged down their owners.

In the Running Back department, the three most noticeable busts have been DeAndra' Cobb, Fred Reid and Avon Cobourne. All three men have underperformed in 2010. While each has had some decent games, none of them has been a consistent fantasy performer, and that hurts, considering each was thought to be a high-round draft pick for fantasy owners.

The Import Receivers that have displayed very little consistency, and in the process have hurt their fantasy owners, are Geroy Simon and Adarius Bowman. Neither player has put together consistent production. Simon was considered one of the top two or three fantasy Import WRs entering the 2010 season, and his lack of production has hurt his fantasy owners immensely.

As far as Non-Import WRs are concerned, both Ben Cahoon and Paris Jackson have been terribly disappointing. Jackson has been virtually invisible this year, only really making an impact in BC's most recent game against Montreal. Cahoon has been less than stellar in 2010, but this could be an issue of Cahoon being ranked higher based on past performance instead of what was actually expected of the aging former BYU Cougar in 2010.

The list of Kicker busts starts and ends with Sandro DeAngelis. Entering 2010, DeAngelis was the most accurate Kicker in CFL history. He left Calgary to play closer to home in Hamilton, and to say his Tiger-Cat tenure has been a disappointment would be an understatement. DeAngelis was probably the first or second Kicker drafted in most fantasy leagues, and his up-and-down performance all year is proof that you always wait until the last round to draft your Kicker.

Biggest Bust: DeAndra' Cobb

Breakouts
There haven't been very many breakout performances at Quarterback, but one player poised to have a big second half of the season is Steven Jyles. When thrust into action earlier this season, Jyles played extremely well and has good value for fantasy owners going ahead. Jyles may not currently be a breakout, but he will be by the end of the season. It would be wise to get him now, because he might not be around later.

At Running Back, the list starts and ends with Cory Boyd. When I compiled my fantasy rankings for the season, the Argonauts' Running Back slot was listed as "?" because I had no idea who would play that position for the Boatmen. Suffice to say, Boyd has been "The Man" in the Big Smoke. He leads the league in rushing and was an absolute steal for any owner astute enough to grab him.

At Import Receiver, the biggest breakout performer has been S.J. Green. Green burst into 2010 with an amazing one-handed catch in the season opener, and while there have been some quiet weeks, Green has posted a couple of very good games. If he can become more dependable, he could be on his way to superstardom. While not technically a breakout in the truest sense, one player that has been a surprise is Ken-Yon Rambo. We all know what Rambo is capable of. He led the league in receiving in 2008, but last season he suffered a severe knee injury that cost him most of 2009 and the first few games of 2010. Since his return he has been lights out. Both Green and Rambo have rewarded their owners.

There are two Non-Import Receivers who have performed above expectations in 2010. One is Dave Stala, the other is Andre Durie. Stala is on pace for a career year across the board, and Durie has really taken to being in the Slotback position. Both players have been key to their fantasy owners success.

Whenever a rookie comes into any league and performs, it's usually a surprise. Rob Maver, who is the Kicker for the Calgary Stampeders, has turned heads in his first year in the CFL. Paul McCallum, who is hardly a rookie, has also been great for fantasy owners. Even at his advanced age (by professional-athlete standards) he has been as consistent as any other Kicker so far in 2010. Both have been almost automatic and provided great value for fantasy owners who waited to grab a Kicker after the big names were selected.

Biggest Breakout: Cory Boyd

Most Valuable Player
When it comes down to who has been the fantasy MVP for the first half of the season, five names pop up:
  1. Cory Boyd
  2. Kevin Glenn
  3. Arland Bruce
  4. Wes Cates
  5. Henry Burris
I have already mentioned how great Boyd has been, so I won't bore you with the details again.

Kevin Glenn is putting together one of those seasons that people remember years after they have happened. He has been deadly accurate and seems to have no problem throwing the ball all around the field. Glenn has constantly been among the top fantasy producers each and every week. His value to fantasy owners is almost incalculable.

Glenn's favourite target has been Arland Bruce. Bruce, right now, is the CFL's best Receiver. He leads the league in receiving and has had massive games against Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. Bruce has been everything fantasy owners hoped for when they drafted him.

Last year was considered "The Year of the Running Back" in the CFL. Out of the eight starting Running Backs, only one did not rush for over 1,000 yards: Wes Cates of Saskatchewan. In 2010, he's making sure he won't be the lone man remaining. Cates already has 10 rushing TDs and 631 rushing yards in 2010. He is on pace for 22 total TDs and over 1,600 total yards. He has been a great bargain for fantasy owners and is a legitimate fantasy MVP candidate.

Last, but certainly not least, is Henry Burris. Interceptions aside, Henry Burris has been the best fantasy producer in 2010. He has amassed massive games for fantasy owners and is likely the reason you are leading your league right now. Burris has been phenomenal and is hands down the mid-season fantasy MVP.

Mid-Season MVP: Henry Burris

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Glenn, Knowlton, Stala Named Players of the Week

It was damn near a sweep for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as three of the four weekly awards went to members of the team. Kevin Glenn, Markeith Knowlton and Dave Stala were all rewarded for their great weeks in Week 10.

Kevin Glenn was named Offensive Player of the Week. Glenn picked apart the Argos with brutal efficiency, completing over 80% of his passes for over 300 yards and a TD. It was a virtuoso performance for Glenn, and the second time this season he has won the Offensive Player of the Week award. He is the only player in the CFL to have won the award more than once in 2010.

Markeith Knowlton was named the Special Teams Player of the Week for his big punt block and TD that helped give the Cats a 20-6 lead going into halftime. It was his second blocked kick of the year.

Dave Stala was named the Canadian Player of the Week for picking up 90 yards receiving and scoring the "nail in the coffin" TD in the second half. This is the third time this season that Stala has won the award for Canadian Player of the Week.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 10)

Labour Day is when the real CFL season begins. Contenders distance themselves from the pretenders, and the push to the playoffs begins in earnest. Now the CFL season starts to get really interesting.
  1. Enough with calling every game played on Labour Day weekend "The Labour Day Classic." The only game that deserves that title is Toronto versus Hamilton. I could see Edmonton versus Calgary believing they have the right because at least they play on Labour Day, but Winnipeg and Saskatchewan? BC and Montreal? Get real. From here on out, if it's not played on Labour Day, it cannot be considered a Labour Day Classic.
  2. No one thought Chris Leak would look like Doug Flutie, but I don't think anyone expected him to look like Timmy Chang either. To put it bluntly, Leak was terrible. He looked rattled and never seemed to gain any confidence. It was only his first start, so he shouldn't be written off, but his first start is hardly something he'll want to relive.
  3. I think Montreal's performance this week proved how badly they need Anthony Calvillo in the lineup in order to win. With Calvillo out, Montreal is beatable. With Calvillo out, the East Division is now up for grabs.
  4. Avon Cobourne seems to have completely disappeared. While everyone has focused on DeAndra' Cobb's struggles, Cobourne has been struggling just as mightily. While he is not the most important player for the Alouettes, Montreal will need him to perform if they hope to defend their Grey Cup championship.
  5. October 26, 2008. That was the last time the Montreal faithful had to watch the Alouettes lose in Montreal. That was a streak of 13 games. Another streak was also broken in that game, as the Lions snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating Montreal.
  6. There isn't much to say about BC's performance, but they just beat Montreal. It felt more like Montreal beat themselves, but take nothing away from the Lions. It's hard to go into any opposing stadium and get a win, especially when that stadium is on the McGill campus. Kudos to BC for pulling off such a big upset.
  7. For three quarters Darian Durant looked almost as bad as Chris Leak did. Then, in the blink of an eye, he turned it around. Maybe that was Durant getting out of his slump, but he finally looked like the guy we all saw prior to the beating the Riders took in Calgary. I still have very high hopes for Darian Durant, but my faith is beginning to waver somewhat. He needs to go back to being the guy that played in Weeks 1, 2 and 3.
  8. Chris Davis was cut from the Tiger-Cats, if I recall correctly, because he couldn't catch the football. Well, that was one hell of a catch he made on Sunday. He catches it one-handed, then spins out of a tackle, and gets the first down. Not too shabby.
  9. Does Wes Cates already have 10 rushing TDs in 2010? Last year he was the only Running Back in the CFL not to rush for over 1,000 yards. He's shown in 2010 that 2009 was an aberration.
  10. Poor Buck Pierce. That elbow injury was gruesome. Buck Pierce just cannot stay healthy. It's a shame, too, because Pierce could be one heck of a QB in this league, except his body just won't let him play. He's the QB equivalent of Jesse Lumsden.
  11. I know it's hard to love a Punter, but Eric Wilbur does not act like a normal Punter. He plays like a Linebacker, and hits like one too. He is quickly becoming a fan favourite in Steeltown.
    Tiger-Cat Linebacker Punter Eric Wilbur
  12. Still with the Wilbur lovefest. The fake punt? Genius. He faked out an Argo to gain the first down. It was a thing of beauty. How can you not love a Punter who hits and jukes?
  13. The blocked punt at the end of the half that resulted in a TD for the Ti-Cats was another genius call. Great job by Markeith Knowlton to not just block the punt, but recover it as well.
  14. Even in defeat, Cory Boyd continues to impress. He runs hard, he runs smart, and he refuses to be tackled. I hate the Argos, but I really respect Boyd. After scoring a TD that got the Argos to within a TD, he refused to accept congratulations or celebrate. Going from losing to losing by a little less is not a reason to celebrate. That's the type of player that I like, regardless of the jersey he wears.
  15. Injuries hit the Cats hard. Guard George Hudson, Tackle Belton Johnson and Defensive Back Jykine Bradley all went down with injuries, with Hudson's looking the worst. Hopefully all three will be back at full strength sooner rather than later.
  16. Congrats to Henry Burris for moving into tenth place on the all-time passing-yards list. Imagine how many more he'd have if he didn't waste those years with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
  17. Jon Cornish is everything people thought Jesse Lumsden would be. Cornish is a Canadian playing Running Back, and looks on the cusp of stardom. He will never be that star in Calgary until Joffrey Reynolds rides off into the sunset, but I still think Cornish would be smart to stay in Calgary.
  18. Another backup who I am looking forward to seeing more from is Stampeder QB Drew Tate. I have liked Tate since he was at Iowa, and from the way he's looked in garbage time for the Stamps, he could be a great QB in the CFL.
  19. I don't even know what to say about Edmonton. Their ineptness is beyond description. If they don't fix their problems, Ricky Ray is going to get killed. I actually feel sorry for him.
  20. For the first time since I began making weekly picks, I am above .500. I went 3-1 this week, with the only blemish being the Als losing at home. Who would have thought that going into Week 10? The three wins put my yearly record at 19-17. Not great, but I'm getting better every week. What more can you ask for, eh?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Hamilton 28, Toronto 13

Now that is what I call a Classic. That's what Labour Day is all about. Great crowd, intense atmosphere and a Tiger-Cat victory over the hated Argos. Does it get any better than that?

Positives
Where to begin. Just an all around great game. But I have to start in a place where I have been very critical all season.

A big, BIG hand to the Tiger-Cat Secondary. I know Cleo Lemon isn't exactly a Hall of Famer in the making, but the three interceptions by the Secondary – one each by Geoff Tisdale, Jerome Dennis and the much maligned Jason Shivers – helped pave the way to a Tiger-Cat victory.

Kevin Glenn once again had a very efficient afternoon. He was hitting Receivers left and right, and looked very comfortable in the pocket. This is becoming so commonplace that I feel no need to point it out, but Glenn deserves all the kudos passed his way. It's nice to have a real QB behind Centre for the Cats.

Arland Bruce gets held in check? No problem, Dave Stala and Marquay McDaniel step up. Teams can take away Bruce, and someone else will kill them. The talent at WR is out of this world.

The Defensive Front Seven continue to do everything asked of them. Garrett McIntyre is quickly starting to become one of the best D-Linemen in the entire CFL. He has a motor that doesn't stop, and he just has a knack for getting to the QB.

Negatives
Sadly, even in victory, this wasn't a flawless game. Once again, DeAndra' Cobb showed he is not the same player this year as he was last year. He just doesn't get the job done. He has spurts, but it looks like he is very much mired in a sophomore slump.

On the same note, the Offensive Line isn't helping much. They are fantastic in pass protection, but they don't have the same intensity when run blocking. I don't know if it's so much Cobb's problem, the Line's problem, or a combination of both, but something needs to be done because teams need to be able to run to win.

Final Thoughts
What more can I say? This Classic was classic. It was just an awesome afternoon. I'm hoarse after cheering from the time I got to the game until I walked in my house after the traditional Victory Slurpee.

The Tiger-Cats are now riding a four-game winning streak, have jumped the Argos for second place (and now own the tiebreaker over them as well), and the game this Saturday against Montreal is now the biggest regular-season game for the Cats in I don't know how long. On Saturday, the Cats will be playing for first place in the East Division. I can't tell you the last time the Cats were atop the East. Heck, I can't tell you the last time they were even close. Today, even though it was the Labour Day Classic, is just the appetizer for next week's main course.

BRING ON THE ALS!

Oh yeah, and.....
ARGOS SUCK!!!!!